The Trump administration — which canceled two large-scale spring war games between the United States and South Korea in an effort to move along nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea — is now grappling with reports that Pyongyang is preparing to launch a missile soon.
The reports follow President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s failure to reach an agreement at their summit last month. North Korea’s account for the failure differs from Trump’s, a fact that has increased tensions between the countries.
Experts warn that tensions could rise before negotiations move forward.
“I worry a little bit that this could get worse before it gets better because both sides want to try to figure out how to get the other side back to the table,” said Victor Cha, a former official in charge of Korea relations in the George W. Bush administration. “And they may say pressure is the way to do that.”
National security adviser John Bolton on Sunday said Trump would be “pretty disappointed” should North Korea carry out a nuclear test or a missile launch.
Bolton had been asked about new commercial satellite images taken Friday that show activity at a North Korean missile site near the border with China. Beyond Parallel, a project started by the Center for Strategic and International Security (CSIS), said North Korea “has continued preparations on the launch pad” at the Sohae launch facility, a sign the country is readying for “the delivery of a rocket.”
The long-range rocket launch site was previously shut down as part of a promise made between Kim and Trump at their first summit in June in Singapore.
Experts view the rebuilding as “deliberate efforts by North Korea in response to the inconclusive results of the Hanoi summit — to send a message, really, to President Trump and the world,” according to Cha.
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